Brock Williamson, CFP®
The Wisdom of Ignorance
It may seem like a misnomer to discuss the wisdom of being ignorant. Ignorance, defined as a lack of knowledge or information, is not generally viewed as a positive attribute. But it is absolutely essential for our individual success – both financial and psychological.
I am ignorant to how cell phones actually transmit my voice instantaneously across the globe to another person. I know that when I take medicine it will make me feel better, but I am ignorant to how the pill interacts with my cells to make it all happen. I am grateful other people know this so I can benefit from their knowledge. If we weren’t ignorant about certain things, we wouldn’t have the capacity to become an expert or specialist in other things.
There is simply too much information for us to process everything. Selective attention and ignorance not only make the economies function, but they make us all need each other. We value each other and are grateful for others’ expertise where we are ignorant, and vice versa.
When it comes to investing, ignorance truly is bliss. The news story of the day, the quote of the hour and the many unreliable predictions do not help investors achieve better results. To the contrary, many studies have shown that investors that pay attention to such fleeting information trade more often and achieve lower returns. In addition, the constantly changing market information produces greater stress and anxiety, which may weigh heavily on our personal lives and relationships.
As we come upon the Thanksgiving season, I am grateful that I have a choice of what I pay attention to and what I ignore. We cannot control the volume, frequency or insanity of information, but we can choose what we allow in our minds.
With investing there is always something to worry about; always has been, always will be. But that is your choice. I have not heard of a single person, on their death bed, that wished they would have watched the market more often or listened to the news a little more. Be wise by exercising ignorance in those things that detract from your happiness. Focus your time and attention on what really matters. Which is enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving and giving thanks for the blessings we all have.
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